Best Practices

Mayor Joan Darrah

Safe Schools Program

In May 1990, Mayor Joan Darrah proposed the implementation of what is now known as the "Safe Stockton Plan." The goal of this award-winning, comprehensive program is to make our community a safer, healthier and more productive place in which to live. The plan is comprised of the following three component programs: Safe Schools, Safe Neighborhoods, and Safe Streets and Parks.

Of the three components, the Safe Schools Program most directly addresses education issues that ultimately affect virtually every aspect of life. Nationwide, cities have recognized that police officers on school campuses, in a non-threatening role, can have a positive impact on a child's life. The interaction among educators, students, police officers and the community creates a special bond and helps develop our youth as respectable citizens.

Realizing the importance of this interaction, the School Resource Officer Program was developed within the Safe Schools component. The general goal of this program is to promote a positive image of law enforcement and to promote a "safe school climate."

The School Resource Officer Program began in 1992 with three officers in five schools. Program staff work with school representatives to assess specific community/school needs and implement a tailored-to-fit program. This program has expanded each year to include a total of 15 officers in 30 schools. The program expansion will be complete in the 2000-2001 school year, with 24 School Resource Officers in every one of the 47 schools within the Stockton city limits.

These officers serve in a non-enforcement role unless a situation dictates immediate action. They act as role models for youth; gang diversion, intervention and referral representatives; and drug prevention educators. The officers also work with school staff and parent/teacher groups and participate in after-school and sporting activities. In addition to being on-site during school hours, Stockton's School Resource Officers patrol the neighborhoods around the schools before and after school.

These officers have become an integral part of our current child safety programs and safe schools climate. As they have been "adopted" by the schools and surrounding neighborhoods, the School Resource Officers have become the "patrol officers" with whom residents are most familiar and in whom they trust.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (209) 937-8244

Stockton Truancy Outreach Program

On September 18, 1995, the Stockton Truancy Outreach Program (S.T.O.P.) was initiated. This program was developed because of a very high crime rate involving juvenile victims and suspects in this city and an increased "call for help" from the citizens of Stockton regarding juveniles roaming at all times of the school day.

Mayor Joan Darrah recognized truancy as a multi-faceted issue that required equally diverse resources in order to resolve the associated problems. She further recognized that truancy victimizes schools through the loss of ADA funds, apathy on the part of students, and frustration on the part of teachers, local businesses and parents. Additionally, truancy involves more than just being absent from school. Chronically-truant students who "hang around" are often targets of pedophiles, as well as other forms of crime and victimization. Serious risk of harm is inherent in truancy, thus predicating the need for preventive action. School attendance is not optional, it is mandatory. Mayor Darrah believed a substantial investment had to be made in programs that encourage positive attendance.

Since the inception of the program, over 2,600 truant students have been picked up and processed through the S.T.O.P. Center. This center is a combined effort between the local school districts and the City of Stockton. The center is staffed by a full-time police officer, a school district counselor, and a district staff person.

Many of the juveniles detained display characteristics of at-risk youths. Nearly 10 percent have admitted to being affiliated with gangs. There are numerous intangible benefits that are being achieved as a result of the truancy program. One of the primary benefits noted thus far is the belief that the program fosters family and parental responsibility. Parents have used the program to set their own restrictions on their children, and in the most extreme cases, the program puts restrictions on the parents. The program's design provides parents with much-needed information regarding counseling services and parenting classes available through both public and private agencies.

The truancy program is also an effective means of getting necessary support to juveniles in need or at risk. Juveniles are making use of the counseling services available through the program. Pregnant teenagers have been identified and directed toward prenatal care, and children that have not been attending school at all have been enrolled. In more serious cases, runaways have been directed toward counseling services along with their parents, or placements have been provided for children from abusive homes. Contact: Office of the Mayor, (209) 937-8244

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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